CFP: Southwest Wisconsin Medieval and Renaissance

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0107  Thursday, 18 January 2001

From:           Peter T. Hadorn <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 16 Jan 2001 17:33:55 -0600
Subject:        CFP: Southwest Wisconsin Medieval and Renaissance Association

CFP: The Southwest Wisconsin Medieval and Renaissance Conference

At the University of Wisconsin-Platteville
September 21-23, 2001.

We welcome abstracts or finished papers on topics related to any aspect
of the Middle Ages or the Renaissance that would appeal to a GENERAL
AUDIENCE consisting of university professors, graduate and undergraduate
students, high school teachers and students, and interested community
members.  Papers should be no more than 20 minutes reading length (8-10

Possible topics for individual papers include:

Re: Webster's White Devil Review

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0106  Thursday, 18 January 2001

From:           Cary M. Mazer <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 16 Jan 2001 11:49:09 -0500
Subject: 12.0093 Webster's White Devil Review
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0093 Webster's White Devil Review

Richard Burt writes:

>This is a positive review (the second) of The White Devil now playing at

and then quotes it, including this paragraph:

>What the show doesn't have is an ounce of psychological credibility. And
>unless you can identify Webster's unscrupulous, ambitious ghouls as real
>people, with plenty of latter-day counterparts, their gleeful bashing
>and dispatching of one another starts to seem like a very long episode
>of "The Itchy and Scratchy Show," the ultimate in mayhem cartoons,
>watched by children on "The Simpsons."

That's positive?  The Times critic, Ben Brantley, got it just right, I
think (I was at that same performance incidentally), only he was, in my
opinion, much too generous.  The acting was appallingly shallow, the
verse bellowed without variety or psychological impulse, and the
production, while beautiful and clear, aimed at style over any real


Re: Polonius Clan

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0104  Thursday, 18 January 2001

[1]     From:   Phyll Gorfain <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 16 Jan 2001 11:11:48 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0068 Re: Kent (now the Polonius clan)

[2]     From:   Don Bloom <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 16 Jan 2001 13:25:48 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0068 Re: Kent (now the Polonius clan)

From:           Phyll Gorfain <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 16 Jan 2001 11:11:48 -0500
Subject: 12.0068 Re: Kent (now the Polonius clan)
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0068 Re: Kent (now the Polonius clan)

Paul Doniger wrote, in response to Moira Russell's admiration of
Ophelia/Laretes mocking Polonius behind his back (this is seen in the
Williamson movie of many years ago), that he thinks it detracts from
Polonius' proverbs and even wisdom:

>I have often seen this playfulness, which I
>think is appropriate to the characters, generally, but inappropriate to
>the scene.  What bothers me is when the teasing covers Polonius's advice
>to Laertes to the point that it distracts the audience from what
>Polonius actually says.  This is the first opportunity we have to see
>how skilled and serious an advisor Polonius actually is (I have really
>gotten exceedingly tired of seeing Polonius played as a one-dimensional
>buffoon) , and it is important that we pay attention to what he is
>telling his son. The "endless proverbs" are actually quite true and
>useful, and the actor playing Laertes needs to listen to it attentively.
>This also is the only opportunity we have to see the love Laertes bears
>his father-certainly important in light of his heated vengeance later in
>the play. I find that if Laertes and Ophelia show "affectionate
>impatience" at this moment, although it is amusing and entertaining, it
>detracts from the full presentation of Laertes and Polonius as fully
>rounded characters.
>Does anybody have any thoughts about this?

Briefly, I would say that while I think too much stage business of this
kind CAN contribute to the audience judging Polonius as nothing more a
buffoon.  That certainly is a problem if we are to take seriously a
crafty ruler like Claudius listening to his advice and conspiring with
him, relying on him as a spy, etc.

Nonetheless, I think that Polonius' sententious and proverbial style
with Laertes is suspect as wise advice to a youth leaving home.  The
problem with Polonius string of proverbs is that they are rushed
together, in a kind of hyper-stimulating series that does not allow each
piece of advice its own integrity.  The rush of prefabricated,
traditional proverbs can attain weight and wisdom if given with due
regard and time for audience absorption.  Piling one proverb, on another
as Polonius does, indicates his need to appear important and wise rather
than his ability to convey wise words.  The performance of the proverbs,
and the way of presenting them, undermines their effect and betrays his
lack of understanding of how to perform proverbial wisdom effectively.
Later Ophelia's use of proverbs in a possibly just as sententious way
can greatly annoy Hamlet, as it will show a family reliance on available
speech rather than fresh and direct communication.

The other problem with Polonius advice as wise is that he doesn't follow
it himself.  His final proberb "To thyself be true" is an admonition he
does not, in fact, trust to himself, his daughter, or his son, nor to
Hamlet.  Polonius spies or sets up spying on both the last two; he uses
his daughter in a spying scheme; and he does not respect the need for
his children to find themselves to be true to.  He sacrifices his
daughter's privacy and reputation to advance or protect himself and his
family's interests at court, and he allows himself to be made a fool by
Hamlet in order to retain a position with Claudius.

I think in an effectively performance, Polonius' children can to show,
beneath their affectionate awareness of his tendency toward foolishness,
their reservoir of respect and love for Polonius.  If they are to be
stricken, if not devastated by his death (perhaps as much the manner as
the fact), we need to see that they have a bond with him and with each
other. I think the complex balance of Polonius' craftiness, perhaps
former effectiveness as a court counselor, foolishness, ambition, and
destructiveness to himself, his family, and the court needs to touching
and troubling.  The children's own complex behavior with their father
and together can help set the stage for our sense of his complexity,
which even Hamlet recognizes, to some extent.  In the way Laertes
leaves, he and Ophelia can show their recognition of Polonius' fatherly
concern and of Polonius' past acumen as an advisor.  Their mockery can
perhaps show that they need to share their awareness that he is not
demonstrating either very effectively at that moment, bvut they can,
perhaps, express a certain regret in their interplay.

Phyllis Gorfain

From:           Don Bloom <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 16 Jan 2001 13:25:48 -0600
Subject: 12.0068 Re: Kent (now the Polonius clan)
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0068 Re: Kent (now the Polonius clan)

My Romantic tendencies-which I really do try to keep in check-may lead
me to view characters in too black and white a cast, but my view of
Polonius remains very negative. He is, to me, the tedious old fool that
Hamlet calls him, as evidenced by his dithering introduction of the love
letter to Claudius and Gertrude. He is, moreover, a time-server and a
hypocrite, able to compromise any principle so long as "the
administration" succeeds, and he with it. Finally, he's a domestic
tyrant who casually destroys his daughter's happiness without ever
making a serious effort to find out what Hamlet's intentions are and
whether the king and queen would accept Ophelia as the princess.

At the end of the scene in question, when he tears the poor girl shreds,
he gets more and more upset when there's nothing to get upset about. He
appears to be one of those people who are unable to handle emotion, get
angry as a result, and have to take out their anger on someone else,
whether present or absent. Ophelia is available, so she gets grilled,
insulted, and browbeaten like a bad servant.

Frankly, I think it's quite likely that she and Laertes would get even
with this overbearing windbag by making fun of him behind his back.

Paul Doniger is right that "the 'endless proverbs' are actually quite
true and useful," but their pomposity is tedious-and the situation
completely inappropriate.

Or so I view it,

Re: Orlando

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0105  Thursday, 18 January 2001

From:           Chris Stroffolino <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 16 Jan 2001 18:14:28 -0400
Subject: 12.0066 Re: Orlando
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0066 Re: Orlando

I have a different take on the initial meeting of Rosalind and Celia and
Orlando that may, hopefully, occupy a middle ground between Mr. Bloom
and Mr. Taft, and one that I think is backed up by close textual

I would argue that it is precisely such generalizations as Mr. Bloom's
"I don't think women are motivated as much by physique as we are," that
Shakespeare's subtle, but significant, differentiation of the character
of Rosalind and Celia is designed to challenge....

There is evidence, from the beginning (when Le Beau enters "with his
mouth full of news" (1.2.88) that Rosalind wants to see the wrestling
more than Celia does (1.2.104; 127-133; 146-151) while Celia is more
eloquent and adamant in her attempts to persuade Orlando not to
wrestle.  While Celia sides with Toucstone's insinuation that "breaking
of ribs" should bot be "sport for ladies," Rosalind counters---

    But is there any else longs to see this broken
    music in his sides? Is there yet another dotes upon
    rib-breaking? Shall we see this wrestling, cousin? (1.2.130)

I will grant that Rosalind finds pitiable Le Beau's story, but her
attempt to dissaude Orlando from wrestling is not as passionate as
Celia's (which comes first), and Rosalind seems satisfied with Orlando's
response (perhaps because she already identifies with an outsider much
more than Celia---); Rosalind wants adventure; the sport of "falling in
love" and going to see a male wrestler may provide an excellent
diversion to her own troubling situation. On this point, I am more
sympathetic to Taft's argument, for how do such urges on Rosalind's part
jive with the so-called "maternal" (or as Sophie Masson puts it
"tender") urges which Bloom claims as Rosalind's primary motivation?

At the same time,
Don is right to point out that there are no textual indications to say
when the two men take off their shirts, but this does not mean that
physical attraction doesn't play a role in Rosalind's attraction. Yet,
if we look at the play as a whole, it's clear throughout that Celia is
much more conventional (or perhaps in Bloom's terms, we should say "much
more male") in her privileging of physical attributes and prowess over
words and graciousness (which, as Bloom rightly points out, does play a
part in Rosalind's attraction to Orlando)--for Taft makes the mistake
(as quite a few esteemed critics have) of taking Celia's reading of
Rosalind's psyche as truth. Actually Taft's reading of the wrestling
scene is quite similar to something Celia later says about what happened
to Rosalind, but notice that Rosalind herself never says that Orlando
"tripped up the wrestler's heels and [Rosalind's] heart, both in an
instant." (3.2.205). This tells us more about what attracts Celia to men
than it does about what attracts Rosalind to men...Celia who falls for
Oliver much more quickly than Rosalind does for Orlando.....

I hope this sheds some light on the subject....


TOC: RORD 2001

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0103  Thursday, 18 January 2001

From:           Peter Greenfield <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 16 Jan 2001 13:33:44 -0800
Subject:        TOC: RORD 2001

Greetings from the new editor of RORD!

The contents of the 2001 issue of Research Opportunities in Renaissance
Drama appear below. Increases in printing and mailing costs have put
financial pressure on the journal; I would like to encourage continuing
subscribers to renew their subscriptions for 2001 if they have not
already done so. New subscribers from the SHAKSPER family are certainly
welcome. Members of the Medieval and Renaissance Drama Society receive
RORD as a feature of membership. For information on subscribing and/or
joining MRDS, please see the RORD website:

Kate D. Levin, "Playing with Lyly: Theatrical Criticism and
Non-Shakespearean Drama"
Richard Levin, "Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay, John of Bordeaux, and the
1683 Edition of The History of Friar Bacon"
Matthew Steggle, "The New Academy and the New Exchange"
N. W. Bawcutt, "Renaissance Dramatists and the Texts of their Plays"
Elizabeth Schafer, "Census of Renaissance Drama Productions" (covering
the past
two years)
Denise Ryan, "Women, Sponsorship and the Early Civic Stage: Chester's
Wives and the Lost Assumption Play"
Leanne Groeneveld, "Christ as Image in the Croxton Play of the
Katie Normington, "Reviving the Royal National Theatre's The Mysteries"
Barbara I. Gusick, "The York Millenium Mystery Plays"
Peter Greenfield, "Census of Medieval Drama Productions"

Peter Greenfield, editor
University of Puget Sound

Subscribe to Our Feeds


Make a Gift to SHAKSPER

Consider making a gift to support SHAKSPER.